Who is Smarter, Smiling Mike or Bea Arthur? (or A Few Belated Comments on the Hiring of Coach Kiffin)
Alright, I admit I have been a little absent and not just a little bent out of shape over the fact that I have been completely unable to post anything of substance lately due to my “real” job as an evidence manipulation specialist (lawyer). Hence my last post. What’s more, this has been a very exciting week for fans of the Big Orange, as Tennessee named Lane Kiffin its new head football coach. Despite all of the fanfare, I spent my week in a courtroom, and failed to get a single decent comment out in a timely fashion.
Again, hence my last post…
That said, after watching a few video clips, most notably the one below, I am feeling much more relaxed and much happier. Why? Because, I am beginning to think that maybe Smiling Mike has done it again.
I’ll be the first to admit, Lane Kiffin wasn’t the number one name on my list—but make no mistake he was on it. Still, in the back of my mind I wondered “is Mike Hamilton rushing into things? I just don’t know if I would have been in such a rush.”
Then I remembered two key things:
- I picked the Auburn Tigers to win the SEC West and the Tennessee Volunteers to finish second in the SEC East this year; and
- Bruce Pearl.
Those two realizations gave me a moment of pause and suddenly gave me real confidence in the decision to hire Lane Kiffin as the head football coach at Tennessee.
The first point reminded me that I am a moron and that my skills as a prognosticator and student of college football are about as reliable as Eric Locke was as a receiver (or kick returner, or cheerleader, or ditch digger, or…). Furthermore, it reminded me that there is an awful lot of guesswork in the business or picking coaches. Which led me to point number two.[caption id="" align="alignright" width="271" caption="Smiling Mike dares you to make fun of his shirt"][/caption]
As I wrote some time ago while serving as a stand-in guest writer over at Joel’s venerable pillar of the Fifth Estate, on the day Bruce Pearl was introduced as Men’s Basketball coach the first thing I asked myself was “who the hell is Bruce Pearl?” Well, suffice it to say that I now know who Bruce Pearl is, and I’m pretty sure the rest of the basketball loving inhabitants of the country do now as well. The point is this: love him or hate him, over the last few years Mike Hamilton has shown an uncanny ability to find coaches about as well as anyone in the world of college sports, and as a result, I’m willing to trust his decision.
I think Hamilton has earned that.
Furthermore, what I have seen so far from Coach Kiffin (does kind of have a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?) has thoroughly impressed me. The video above was especially telling for me. Why? Because Kiffin does not talk about “the passion of Tennessee’s fans” or “the tradition they have here.” No, instead—about ten minutes after he was named head coach—he comments on “the passion of our fans” and “the tradition we have here.”
I know, I know, I’m sure the folks in the Sports Information office reminded him to project that message, but you know what, it seemed pretty sincere to me…
I realize taking “ownership” verbally is a small detail—one which can be overstated—but it impressed me. I honestly expected the typical “NFL-style” quasi-corporate speech about future, direction, and leadership. I expected his opening foray with the press to be far less personal than it was. Given my concerns that the “family” aspect of Tennessee football might fade away with the departure of the Great Punkin, this really did my heart good. It also made it clear that Coach Kiffin understands that we happy few, we band of brothers, who wear the Orange are sort of “into” that whole “Tradition” thing.
All I can say is that I first looked at the hiring of Coach Kiffin with a lot of hope and expectation, and a near equal amount of concern and reticence. After seeing how he has handled himself so far, it’s fair to say that I have been impressed.
Yeah, I’ve got me a great big pitcher of the proverbial Kool-Aid, and I’m chugging it down through a garden hose…
I guess that is why I felt led to say hello to Coach Kiffin visually—in the header here at the Gate—rather than simply saying “Oh, um, yeah we got us a coach.”
No matter what I may have thought about the past, I am pretty convinced that Coach Kiffin is the the right man to guide Tennessee into the future.
Which leads me to the seemingly inane title of this post.
I will be the first to admit that I am not a huge fan of professional sports and while I typically follow the NFL playoffs in a limited sense, I can hardly be said to keep up with the league. There are a lot of reasons for this, but the end result is that I am often less than informed when it comes to the guys that play on Sunday. Thus, the only real understanding I had when it came to Coach Kiffin was that he had been fired as head coach of the Los Angeles … err … Oakland … Los Ang … Los Oaklesland Raiders mid-season. I didn’t really hold this against him, because I realize how fickle NFL owners can be. Furthermore, I hardly felt like I had enough background knowledge to really even understand why he was fired (I had to check just to confirm whether the Raiders were in Los Angeles or Oakland this year).
Still, I knew that something hadn’t worked out the way it had been planned…
Then, I stumbled upon this little jewel:
This video really confirmed a few things for me:
- Skeletor is real;
- The Raiders will never win much of anything until that nut-job of an owner they have gives it up;
- Anytime a coach is fired and respected journalists write things like this, it’s probably not the coach’s fault the team is sucking the tubes:
Al Davis’ once-proud franchise has won 19 games since appearing in the 2002 Super Bowl (or one more than the Patriots won in 2007) and better days seemed even more remote in January. That’s when the modest momentum built under new head coach Lane Kiffin in 2007 was flushed when it was learned Davis wanted Kiffin gone because Kiffin wanted to, ya know, coach the team…
- Coach Kiffin’s record as an NFL head coach is of little concern to me considering the situation he inherited; and
- Bea Arthur really should stop wearing those silly black leather jackets and sweatshirts when giving press conferences.
So, is Betty White currently the defensive coordinator for the Raiders, or is it one of the other Golden Girls?
Anyway, the point of this rambling post is simply to say, that I am thrilled to have Lane Kiffin on board as the newest member of the Tennessee family. So far, I have been amazingly impressed with the way he has jumped in headfirst at Tennessee. Most of all, however, I am happy with how he seems to really want be at Tennessee as opposed to simply biding his time.
Of course, I realize that he has not yet completed his first full week as head coach. Still, all I can say is that—so far—it seems like Smiling Mike Hamilton may have gotten it right…again!
Either way, Coach Kiffin, I mean it sincerely when I say “Welcome to the Family!”
Oh yeah, and, Go Vols!
Images Courtesy of: Knoxville News Sentinel • SA Blogs • BroadwayWorld.com • NBC Sports / Getty Images
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